History of the Delaware State Police - 1960 - 1964
The decade of the 1960’s was a turbulent time in America’s past and a period during which many changes occurred within the department. The assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy and the Reverend Martin Luther King, and the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War all marked a decade of civil unrest and domestic instability. Delaware was not spared from the turmoil as the streets of Wilmington erupted in violence during the riots of the late 60’s. Despite all of this, the department continued to grow and evolve, as it had since the 1920’s. New buildings were constructed, technological advances were made and a host of new programs were unveiled, in the continuing effort to improve the services provided to Delaware’s citizens.
In September of 1960, Mr. Benjamin Shaw, Chairman of a Highway Commission Committee assigned to study the current critical needs of the state police, presented recommendations to the highway Commission and the General Assembly. These recommendations included a car-per-man program, more officers, and an additional troop to be built in the Newark area. The reasons for these changes were the increased demands being made upon the department, the alarming increase in crime, and the tremendous population growth in Delaware within the previous five years.
In 1961, Colonel John P. Ferguson presented a seven-point program designed to improve law enforcement by providing police in the state with the resources required to cope with the rapidly increasing population and traffic in Delaware. The program included:
More men, in view of the sharp increase in population and influx of the criminal element and traffic violators from other states to Delaware.
A patrol car per man, to increase the efficiency and response time of each Trooper.
Salary increases, to bring troopers’ pay up to that commensurate with other police agencies in the region.
A general evaluation of laws under which police operate, adoption of a chemical testing law for drivers suspected of being intoxicated, and improved search and seizure laws.
Special investigation units of the police, to work in liaison with police in surrounding states, due to increasing tendency of law violators to travel by car from one state to another.
A first-rate police training school for all law enforcement personnel in Delaware, to provide sound instruction and a code of uniform practices.
To foster support of the law-abiding public for law enforcement programs to help make the state police of Delaware a model organization.
In February of 1961, the size of the force was 180 men and it was reported that, "the average number of uniformed officers on duty at any time anywhere in the state totals less than twenty-five. New Castle County, with two Troops totaling 77 officers, has 1000 miles of roadway and 211,619 residents. Kent County, with one Troop of 25 officers, has 900 miles of roadway and 65,651 residents. Sussex County, with two Troops totaling 75 officers, has 73,195 residents."
The department experienced rapid growth during the decade with the construction of several new facilities and the renovation of some of its older existing buildings. On April 25, 1961, a new Troop 1 building was dedicated at Penny Hill, which had been constructed at a cost of $230,000. The same day marked the completion of work on Troop 4 at Georgetown and Troop 5 at Bridgeville, at a combined cost of $220,000.
In September of 1962, the highway commission recommended the construction of a new state police troop at Price’s Corner, on land which the State Board of Corrections would allocate to the police. Later that year, the creation of Troop 8, the barrack assigned to the Delaware Turnpike, was announced. The new turnpike was scheduled to open in 1964 and its dedication ceremonies were highlighted by a visit from President John F. Kennedy on November 15, 1963, just a week before he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The interstate roadway was subsequently renamed the John F. Kennedy Memorial Turnpike.
In September, 1963, Colonel Ferguson, who had only eight months left before retiring, stated at a highway Commission meeting that he wanted to spend his remaining time working on detailed recommendations for improving the state police. His primary recommendation was for the establishment of a police-training academy, which would serve all law enforcement agencies in Delaware. He believed that the training received by smaller departments was, at that time, inadequate.
In 1963, the House and Senate approved the expenditure of $95,000 to purchase a 2-story brick building on the Kirkwood highway. The building was to be a substation of Troop 2, and was given the designation "Troop 2A". It was initially manned by 20 troopers under the supervision of a sergeant. Plans for a state police-training academy were approved late in the year 1963, with an estimated cost of $400,000. Construction on the building was not started until 1968.
In 1964, Troop 2A opened at 3808 Kirkwood Highway, the state’s busiest road at the time, with one sergeant, three corporals and twelve troopers. Later that same year, the new troop received eleven more men, to bring its complement up to 27 officers.
Advances in technology during the 1960’s reflected the commitment to establishing improved communications between the Delaware State Police and its neighboring agencies in the law enforcement community. New technology in communications in the form of a 100-word-per-minute teletypewriter resulted in a considerable speed-up of the exchange of police information along the east coast.
The use of aircraft to enforce traffic laws continued in the 1960’s as an airplane was used to clock speeding violators. This required a pilot and copilot who used a stopwatch calibrated to one-tenth of a second. The aircraft would fly over a marked course of a specified distance, usually a quarter mile, and clock the violator through the course. The co-pilot would then transfer the stopwatch reading to a device on which three dials were displayed. The first circular dial contained the time, a second wheel displayed the distance, and a third wheel gave the speed of the vehicle, which the trooper in the plane simultaneously entered onto a log sheet, and announced by radio to another trooper on the shoulder of the highway a short distance beyond the last painted course marker.
The use of unmarked patrol cars continued to be a source of debate between the department’s executive staff and certain members of the legislature. It was the position of the division at that time that the use of unmarked cars tended to reduce unsafe driving, while at the same time, provided substantial savings to the state police. The unmarked cars did not require special lights, paint jobs and decals, and they held a much higher resale value once they were replaced. Most state police patrol cars were unmarked during this period. The few marked cars in use by troopers were for special emergency purposes only.
In July of 1961, with promotions and transfers, every patrol troop had an assigned canine team for the first time. The teams had proven effective in crowd control situations, building searches and in the detection of prowlers. The dogs had already been utilized to track and arrest criminal suspects.
The Delaware State Fair, held in Harrington starting July 22, of 1961, was the scene for the unveiling of the new Delaware State Police Field Education Unit, a forty foot trailer which had been previously used as a temporary barrack while the Penny Hill and Bridgeville Troops were undergoing renovations. It was equipped with exhibits on radar, fingerprinting, evidence, scuba-diving equipment, weapons and the Intoximeter, as well as pictures and displays of other activities of the state police. The trailer was open to the public for tours and, after its debut, was taken to schools and civic group meetings throughout the state.
The Delaware State News reported in late November that the state police had obtained a giant speedometer and had mounted it atop one of its patrol cars. The display served two purposes: it allowed motorists following the cruiser to check the accuracy of their own speedometers, and it also assisted motorists in determining a safe speed during inclement weather. The display was eighteen inches in diameter and was illuminated at night. The patrol car was first utilized in New Castle County, then eventually saw patrol duty in Kent and Sussex Counties.
The issue of unmarked cars was again addressed by the Delaware Safety Council in June of 1962. At the time, there were eighty-six unmarked cars and only six marked cars in the patrol fleet. While the low traffic fatality rate in 1961, was attributed to the use of unmarked cars, a 118% increase in fatalities in the first six months of 1962, prompted the Delaware Safety Council to suggest additional measures to supplement the use of marked patrol cars in an effort to reduce highway deaths:
- Strict enforcement of truck laws
- Biannual truck inspections
- Mandatory re-examination of drivers
- Encouraging the use of seat belts
- Establishing public education programs
All of these programs were designed to develop a reputation for Delaware as a "tough state", and to discourage out of state violators, who had been responsible for a large number of the fatalities. In addition to the programs recommended by the Delaware Safety Council, the department purchased additional RADAR equipment which would be in use 24 hours a day.
Several benchmark rulings relating to the enforcement of speeding laws by teams of officers were made during the decade. The use by state police of airplanes to spot speeding motorists was upheld in a Sussex County Court of Common Pleas case on October 10, 1962. The ruling held that radio communications between troopers in different vehicles did not constitute hearsay.
The decade of the 1960’s witnessed the establishment of the Central Records Division and Central Communications Center at Headquarters in Dover. During this same period the Youth Division was separated from the Safety Education Division.
During the decade, members of the department would receive two pay raises and a substantial increase in its complement. In March, 1961, a new pay scale approved by the State Highway Commission meant an 11% increase in starting pay for troopers, from $3960 to $4400. Pay increases for other ranks ranged from 5.4 to 7.5%, while the salary of the superintendent increased 20%, to $12,000.
Governor Carvel signed House Bill 27 into law on December 12, 1961, which authorized the strength of the state police to be increased from 180 to 250 men. Forty new troopers were to be assigned to New Castle County. The bill had been passed by both the House and Senate earlier, but funding was not available until the state gas tax was increased by a penny per gallon. In July, 1968, a bill introduced in the House authorized the state police to have a maximum strength of 400. It was signed into law in August of 1968 and in February, of 1969, the starting salary for a trooper was raised to $5,900. Effective July 1, troopers received a $900 pay increase and the annual salary for a trooper was $6800.
Several advances in training occurred during the decade with the establishment of the new training facility at the headquarters complex in Dover. Training classes for new recruits and a member of the state police canine corps began January 15, 1962, at the indoor firing range of the Headquarters building in Dover, which had been remodeled for use as a classroom. The move to Dover for recruit training was necessitated because the training academy at the Delaware Memorial Bridge was demolished for construction of the second bridge span. The recruits commuted five days a week to the classes.
Requirements for applicants for the position of trooper during the latter part of the decade were: "Applicants must be at least 5 feet, 10 inches in height, 160 pounds, in good physical condition, a high school graduate, and of good moral character." Mental acuity and psychological fitness were tested, then a thorough physical examination and background check were conducted, followed by two oral interviews.
Three troopers died during the decade, including the first Delaware State Trooper to be murdered while in the performance of his duties. On April 19, 1962, at about 3 a.m. Trooper Raymond X. Querey and Trooper First Class Harold B. Rupert attempted to stop a vehicle for traffic violations in the City of Wilmington. The car sped away with city police joining in the pursuit, which continued over the state line into Pennsylvania at speeds of up to 120 miles per hour. The troopers’ car had just crossed into Pennsylvania on Philadelphia Pike when Trooper Querey tried to pass the fleeing car. The driver moved to the left, forcing the patrol car across the center line and into the path of a southbound tractor trailer. Trooper Querey tried to avoid the truck, but the rig struck the patrol car broadside. Trooper Querey received serious injuries; Trooper First Class Rupert was killed instantly. The driver being pursued escaped, but returned to Delaware and turned himself in after learning of the fatal crash on the radio. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
On October 17, 1963, 28 year old Trooper Robert A. Paris was on a special burglary detail checking area motels when he approached two suspicious men in the parking lot of the Dutch Village Motel at 3:40 am. As he approached the subjects, he identified himself and a gun fight ensued. During the battle, Trooper Paris was killed by a single shotgun blast. The two men were apprehended the following day after an intensive manhunt, along with a third man who drove their getaway car. The Delaware State Police were assisted with the manhunt by Wilmington Police, New Castle County, New Castle City and Maryland State Police, the FBI, volunteer fire fighters and other civilian volunteers. In January of 1965, Thomas Winsett was sentenced to life in prison for the murder, while his two accomplices, William Weekly and Edward Mayerhofer, received 18 and 16 year sentences, respectively.
Trooper First Class Thomas E. Everett and his partner "Captain", a Doberman Pinscher was placed in command of the first K-9 Unit. Captain passed away in 1964.